I’m delighted to be on Rachel’s Random Resources tour hosting Delia Pits who is chatting to us about Pauper and Prince in Harlem.
Find out how her protagonist surprised her, the scene Delia enjoyed writing and more.
There’s a also a tourwide giveaway open to US residents. Don’t miss it!
Pauper and Prince in Harlem by Delia C Pitts is available to purchase in digital and paperback formats.
A vulnerable kid. A brutal enemy. An addled ally. Blood runs cold on Harlem’s hottest summer night when Drive-by assassins shoot up a crowded playground, killing the teenaged friend of private eye SJ Rook. Only fourteen, the kid was smart, affectionate, and alive with potential. His sudden death strikes the cynical Rook through the heart. Was this boy the victim of a cruel accident? Or was he targeted by gang hit men in a ruthless display of power?
To find the killers, Rook must enlist the help of another teen, Whip, a mysterious runaway witness. Whip is a transgender boy whose life on the streets has drawn him into the realm of a violent mob kingpin. Damaged by his mother’s rejection, Whip doesn’t want to be found. Not by the cops or by community do-gooders. And certainly not by Rook, a resolute stranger with vengeance on his mind. Rook’s search for the elusive kid becomes a dangerous trek through the meanest corners of his neighborhood.
Racing from desolate homeless camps to urban swamps, from settlement houses to high-rise palaces ruled by greed and corruption, the determined Rook pursues his quarry. An unexpected twist in the detective’s relationship with his crime-fighting partner, Sabrina Ross, threatens to derail his mission. Noble tramps, vicious thugs, and a pint-sized trigger woman also complicate Rook’s efforts to protect Whip. When a mob prince and a hobo hold the boy’s life in the balance will Rook’s grit and imagination be enough to save Whip and bring the killers to justice?
Hi Delia, welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please tell us about the characters in your book
The main character is SJ Rook, a private eye who works for a tiny detective agency in Harlem. He is smart, tough, empathetic and mostly honest. He refuses to carry a gun because it is an invitation to violence. He relies instead on rabbit punches and quick wits to resolve dangerous situations. His two bosses are Norment Ross, the veteran investigator who founded the firm, and Norment’s daughter, Sabrina (Brina) Ross, a whip-smart trigger woman who is the brains of the agency. Brina is also Rook’s girlfriend, which makes for complications.
Was there anything about your protagonist that surprised you?
I was surprised at how Rook’s sense of empathy has developed over the course of the series, from an unsteady hobo determined to find the firebug who burned down his apartment building to a fully-fledged and skilled private eye. He has grown as a man, learning to trust himself and rely on his friends, two traits he didn’t have when he started out. His searching introspection is another aspect of his character that has impressed me about Rook. I like that searching quality in a man; I wasn’t sure if Rook had it in him. He does.
What scene did you enjoy writing the most Delia?
I really enjoyed writing Rook’s conversations with the hobo leader, Eddie. Eddie is sharp-eyed, but a bit addled. So he is an unreliable ally in Rook’s quest to protect the runaway boy, Whip. Getting the balance of patience, drive, whimsy, and suspicion was important for these exchanges and I really liked capturing their two very different voices.
… and the hardest to write?
The hardest scene was definitely the one in which Rook and Brina hash out how best to confront the mob boss who threatens them all. This was a vigorous argument between people who care deeply for each other. So I had to push them to be angry and loving at the same time. I re-wrote this dialogue several times to get the tone, psychology, and physical movement right. But I’m proud of how this scene turned out. I learned a lot about both characters in crafting this scene.
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book were optioned for a movie?
I would see Samuel L. Jackson as the senior detective Norment Ross. Tracee Ellis Ross or Taraji P. Henson as Brina, and Keegan-Michael Key as Rook. My ideal Rook would be the baseball player Anthony Rendon, star third baseman for the Los Angeles Angels. But he isn’t an actor. Sigh.
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be …
Hold your friends closer. Don’t let anything happen to them.
Does your book tackle a social barrier Delia?
The featured character in Pauper and Prince in Harlem is a transgender boy, Whip, who has witnessed a brutal murder. Whip is homeless and operates in a street gang. Private eye Rook must find Whip to bring the killers to justice. As he works to protect Whip, Rook grapples with his own issues about gender identity and homelessness, as well as parenthood. He comes to resolution in his efforts to support and nurture Whip.
Did you do any research for your book? What resources did you use?
I read lots of newspaper articles on organized crime, especially financial and online banking crime.
Do you have a theme for your book covers? Who designs them?
My book covers are focused on moody presentations of the iconic skyline of New York City. I am not an artist, so I engaged professional designers, but I gave them lots of notes including the suggestions for the color scheme of each cover. The colors are specific to the themes and imagery of each book. My idea is to make reading an immersive experience for the reader, with every aspect of the novel flowing into each other. In the case of Pauper and Prince in Harlem, the use of deep purples and gold on the cover commented on the play of different concepts of royalty in the book.
If your book is part of a series, what is in the future?
Pauper and Prince in Harlem is the fourth in a series of mystery novels featuring my private eye Rook. I have several more books about Rook’s cases in various states of revision. I expect to publish them over the next few years. Right now, my Work In Progress is the fifth Rook mystery novel. It is called Murder My Past. In it, Rook grapples with feelings of desire and loss when his ex-wife returns, only to be murdered shortly after their reunion.
Do you have a most creative time of day Delia?
I find I work best in the quiet hours of late afternoon, when the sun streams into my dining room where I have set up a cramped writing space at one end of the dining table. I can put in three to four hours each day without pause.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
Authors as diverse as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, and Ernest Hemingway have all had significant impact on my writing.
Can you share with us what are you reading now?
I am reading Attica Locke’s fabulous mystery novel, Heaven, My Home. It is gripping fiction, which blends social commentary with amazing description and character portrayals.
Finally, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
The best part of my writing journey so far has been discovering a new community of people of color who write crime fiction. These fantastic writers have been supportive and encouraging models as I move forward. I have greatly benefitted from getting to know them. I have also enjoyed learning about the business and technical side of the writing craft. I am learning so much about web design, publishing, advertising, promotion, podcasts, and virtual communities.
Thank you for being my guest today. Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Delia C. Pitts is the author of the Ross Agency Mysteries, a contemporary private eye series including Lost and Found in Harlem, Practice the Jealous Arts, and Black and Blue in Harlem. She is a former university administrator and U.S. diplomat, who served in West Africa and Mexico. After working as a journalist, she earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago. She has published more than sixty fan fiction titles under the pen name Blacktop. Pauper and Prince in Harlem is the fourth novel in the Ross Agency Mystery series. The fifth, Murder My Past, will be released in 2021. Learn more at her website, www.deliapitts.com Instagram: deliapitts50 Twitter: @blacktop1950
Giveaway to Win 5 x PB Copies of Pauper and Prince in Harlem (Open to USA Only)
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